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The Nature of Women - The Mayor Gallery

Lisa Corinne Davis, Itemizwd Pandemonium, 2009, oil on panel. 61 x 91.5 cm, 24 x 36 inches.

Exhibition preview

WORK by six abstract female artists – Agnes Martin, Aurelie Nemours, Lisa Corinne Davis, Marischa Burckhardt, Sylvia Heider and Anne Appleby – will be brought together for the Mayor Gallery’s final exhibition in its Cork Street premises.

Entitled The Nature of Women, it will be on display from June 5 to July 26, 2013.

When Fred Mayor opened the doors to The Mayor Gallery in London’s now celebrated art street in 1925, it was with a show of work by six male artists that included Picasso, Herbin and Dufy, shortly followed by Léger, Metzinger and Gris. The Nature of Women, 88 years on, seems a fitting response to close the circle.

Although the artists in this exhibition all show a meticulous and methodical approach to their making, their works generate freewheeling emotion. With Agnes Martin (1912-2004) at the centre of the group, they are united by a sensibility to intensely experienced light and colour.

Martin became one of the key abstract painters of the twentieth century. Her minimalist works, with delicate lines in pencil or slim bands of colour that almost appear to levitate from the canvas, have earned her a unique position in the abstract expressionist canon. George Baselitz, who recently (February 2013) spoke out against women artists – “Women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact …”, conceded there Martin was one of the few exceptions to this rule.

The work of French artist Aurélie Nemours (1910-2005) is often framed within the context of her contemporary Agnes Martin. Nemours’ strongly geometric works are vibrant and colourful with determined black lines.

Although coming to art later in life, Marischa Burckhardt built up an impressive body of work during the seventies. She uses collage, fabric, paint and photography to explore an affinity with nature and light, reflected in a combination of vibrant and muted golden hues. During a residency with the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, she drew inspirational from Aboriginal art, constructing sand paintings and installations of found objects.

African-American artist Lisa Corinne Davis creates visually complex and deeply narrative works through layered collages. Using found material such as maps, newspaper articles, and small increments of paint, hand drawings and fingerprints, Davis creates frenetic canvases, using the grid as the backbone of her urban landscapes. Davis comments: “I have relied heavily on the grid as a structure but more recently loosening the grip, modifying it, as Martin had done, in working by hand. Many of my gridded or measured lines are also done by hand to find the tension between the measured, rational and the felt, subjective.”

The influence of Agnes Martin is again evident in the work of Austrian artist Sylvia Heider who creates strong, geometric, metal relief wall sculptures, enclosing abstract forms in massive knotted wooden frames. Her works are made with the consciousness of the effect of light glancing off the metal, again showing an awareness and appreciation of natural forces.

Nature is also at the heart of Anne Appleby’s monochromatic works: “they are a highly compressed notation of landscape experiences”, says critic Kenneth Baker. Minute graduation and luminous distillation of colour – “a chromatic ambiguity” – reflects her appreciation of the impact of subtle tonal shifts. For example, the complexities of a Sweet Pea are manifested as a quadriptych of colours, an intensely observed response to nature. Her work is informed by her native American heritage and each piece has a simple, naturalistic title.

The influence of Agnes Martin is evident throughout this exhibition, from the strong and varied use of geometric forms in the work of Nemours, Burckhardt, Heider and Appleby, to the grid technique in Davis’ abstract landscapes. The Mayor Gallery was the first to show Agnes Martin in Europe (the artist was a Canadian born American citizen), giving her a solo exhibition in 1974. Five works on paper from the 1950’s and two canvases from 1974 will be included in The Nature of Women.

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm; Saturday, 12 – 3pm.

Mayor Gallery, 22A Cork Street, London, W1S 3NA

Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3558

The Mayor gallery will announce their new home shortly.